Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mighell, Sir Norman Rupert (1894–1955)

by Richard Kingsland

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Sir Norman Rupert Mighell (1894-1955), company director and public servant, was born on 12 June 1894 at Mackay, Queensland, second son of Alfred William Mighell, an accountant from England, and his Queensland-born wife Mary Anne, née O'Donohue. Educated at St Joseph's College, Brisbane, Norman worked as an articled clerk at Gordonvale and studied law. He was mobilized in the Militia in August 1914 and served briefly with the garrison on Thursday Island before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 November. Five ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall and weighing 10 st. 6 lb. (66 kg), he had grey eyes and light brown hair. As a sergeant in the 15th Battalion, he was among the first Australian troops to land at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, sustaining severe wounds which plagued him for the rest of his life. He was admitted to hospital in England in June, repatriated in November and discharged from the A.I.F. on 14 June 1916.

Admitted as a solicitor on 30 April 1918, Mighell practised at Innisfail (until 1925) and then in Brisbane. At her Cairns home on 23 June 1920 he had married with Catholic rites Marjorie, daughter of A. F. J. Draper; they were to have a son and daughter. Mighell was a foundation member (1928) of the Brisbane Legacy Club and president (1928-29) of the Queensland branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. On 16 July 1929 he was admitted to the Bar. That year he became chairman of No.1 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal.

In 1935 Mighell was appointed chairman of the Repatriation Commission, Melbourne. Fearing that ex-servicemen and women might lose more than they gained, he resisted moves in the late 1930s to reform repatriation legislation, particularly the proposal to subject war pensioners to a means test. In addition, he opposed the Menzies government's decision (1940) to remove the pension entitlement of an ex-serviceman's de facto wife when his lawful wife received or claimed the benefit. Mighell took a special interest in the education of the children of deceased or disabled veterans. During World War II he warned the government against permitting people with disabilities to enlist in the armed forces because they might later qualify for pensions.

Appointed Commonwealth coal commissioner in August 1941 (head of the Coal Commission, 1942-44), Mighell held responsibility for the production and distribution of coal until 1946. He endeavoured to increase yields and to handle the many industrial problems which plagued the industry. In 1943 he chaired the committee whose recommendations on the resettlement of armed services personnel formed the basis for the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Australia's deputy high commissioner in London in 1946-49, he returned to Melbourne in 1950. Mighell had been appointed C.M.G. in 1939. In 1951 he was knighted. He chaired the British Memorial Fund and the Melbourne branch of the Overseas League.

In the 1950s Mighell was chairman of Sulphide Corporation Pty Ltd, Standard Telephones & Cables Pty Ltd, Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd and the Melbourne board of Atlas Assurance Co. Ltd. As chairman of Territory Enterprises Pty Ltd, he played an important part in developing, on behalf of the Commonwealth government, the uranium deposits at Rum Jungle, Northern Territory. Sir Norman was a director of Zinc Corporation Ltd, New Broken Hill Consolidated Ltd and Anglo-Australian Corporation Pty Ltd. Survived by his wife and son, he died on 13 April 1955 in the Mercy Hospital, East Melbourne, from injuries received in a motorcar accident and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • S. J. Butlin and C. B. Schedvin, War Economy 1942-1945 (Canb, 1977)
  • C. Lloyd and J. Rees, The Last Shilling (Melb, 1994)
  • A5954/1 item 52/1, A649/6 item 183/600/3 (National Archives of Australia)
  • information from Mrs S. Martens and from the Returned Services League of Australia, Canberra (held in ADB file).

Citation details

Richard Kingsland, 'Mighell, Sir Norman Rupert (1894–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mighell-sir-norman-rupert-11119/text19799, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 September 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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